It was narrated in a saheeh hadeeth that one of the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) mounted the minbar, we would turn our faces towards him.
(al-Silsilat al_Saheehah by al-Albaani, no. 2080)
It was narrated that Abaan ibn ‘Abd-Allaah al-Bajili said: I saw ‘Udayy ibn Thaabit turning to face the imaam when he stood to deliver the khutbah. I said to him, I saw you turn your face towards the imaam. He said, I saw the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) doing that.
It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood said: when the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) mounted the minbar, we would turn our faces towards him him. This was narrated by al-Tirmidhi, who said, in the same chapter there are reports narrated from Ibn ‘Umar and Muhammad ibn al-Fadl. According to the scholars among the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and others, this is to be followed. They regard it as mustahabb to turn to face the imaam when he delivers the khutbah. This is the view of Sufyaan al-Thawri, al-Shaafa’i, Ahmad and Ishaaq.
It was narrated that Yahyaa ibn Sa’eed al-Ansaari said: “The Sunnah when the imaam sits on the minbar on Friday is for all the people to turn their faces towards him.”
It was narrated from Naafi’ that Ibn ‘Umar used to finish his tasbeeh before the imaam came out; when he came out, he would turn to face him before the imaam even sat down.
Al-Albaani (may Allaah have mercy on him) compiled these ahaadeeth in al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, no. 2080, and commented on them.
It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sat on the minbar and we sat around him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 921)
Al-Bukhaari narrated the hadeeth in “Chapter: The imaam facing the people, and the people turning their faces towards the imaam when he delivers the khutbah, and Ibn ‘Umar and Anas (may Allaah be pleased with them) turning their faces towards the imaam.”
The point of the hadeeth is that the fact that they sat around him to listen to his words implies that they were looking at him in most cases. This is not affected by what was said earlier about the khateeb standing during the khutbah, because this implies that he used to speak whilst he was sitting in a high place and they were sitting at a lower point. If that was the case at times other than the khutbah, then it is more appropriate to do that at the time of the khutbah because there is the command to listen to it attentively.
“One of the reasons for their turning their faces towards the imaam is to facilitate their listening to his words, and to observe good manners when listening to him. If a person turn his face towards him with the proper physical posture and a focused mind, that will better enable them to understand his preaching and is in accordance with the reason why the khateeb is commanded to stand.”
And Allaah knows best.